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Puget Sound orcas keep ESA protection

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Puget Sound‘s orcas need Endangered Species Act protection. Photo courtesy NOAA/NMFS.

Feds reject argument by ultra- conservative property rights group

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A tiny population of threatened killer whales in Puget Sound will remain protected under the Endangered Species Act.

The National Marine Fisheries Service this week rejected a petition from the Pacific Legal Foundation, which had challenged the population’s status.

The fringe property rights advocacy group claimed, based in invalid science, that the Puget Sound  “southern resident” killer whales are not a distinct population. In response, the federal government conducted a year-long review of the status and eligibility of the orcas for Endangered Species Act protection and confirmed that the whale’s endangered listing remains warranted. Continue reading

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Oceans: Feds to consider de-listing Puget Sound orcas

The National Marine Fisheries Service will consider a petition to de-list Puget Sound orcas. Photo courtesy NOAA.

Right-wing property rights group files nuisance petition

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — An anti-environmental property rights groups has successfully petitioned the National Marine Fisheries Service to reconsider its Endangered Species Act listing for Puget Sound’s resident orcas, more formally known as southern resident killer whales.

Puget Sound orcas have had endangered status since 2005, when federal biologists listed them due to threats from pollution, habitat destruction and over-collection by the marine aquarium industry. Puget Sound orcas are one of a few populations to feed extensively on salmon; they have a unique dialect; and previous studies have shown they are genetically unique. Continue reading

Research suggests climate-change impacts to Puget Sound

Sampling Puget Sound waters aboard an EPA ship. Photo courtesy NOAA.

‘Corrosive’ water seen as threat to shellfish

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — A comprehensive, multi-disciplinary survey of Puget Sound suggests that increased concentrations of atmospheric carbon are turning the water more corrosive during certain seasons, with potentially significant impacts to shellfish populations.

The study was conducted by the Puget Sound Ecosystem Monitoring Program, a scientific partnership among universities and government agencies. The report also documented the presence of unusual, harmful algae that can contaminate shellfish, as well as nutrients from human activities, both of which have the potential to degrade water quality.

Conservation advocates say the data is alarming, and suggests that Puget Sound’s wildlife could face persistent threats as the Earth’s climate warms. Continue reading

Global warming: Puget Sound faces acidification threat

Puget Sound in a NASA satellite image.

Washington designates Puget Sound as ‘waters of concern’

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — The waters of Puget Sound are at-risk from ocean acidification, Washington State officials said as they designated the entire sound as “waters of concern” in a water quality report to the EPA.

Data collected by the state suggests that ocean acidification is threatening the region’s ability to support fish and shellfish. The designation also makes the area a priority for more monitoring and assessment.

Ocean acidification is a direct result of increasing greenhouse gas emissions. As the ocean absorbs more carbon, the altered chemistry affects the ability of shellfish to build their shells. Continue reading

Global warming to increase human health risks

NOAA teams up with university researchers to show how warmer temperatures will increase toxic algae blooms and exposure to other waterborne pathogens

Dust blowing off the Sahara into the Atlantic is clearly visible in the NASA satellite image. Research suggests rising concentrations of iron from the dust will increase blooms of toxic algae.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — At the same time that ecologists and forest health researchers discussed some of their latest global warming research at a symposium in Aspen, Colorado, scientists at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science unveiled studies showing how rising temperatures could result in new human health risks within the next 30 years.

“With 2010 the wettest year on record and third warmest for sea surface temperatures, NOAA and our partners are working to uncover how a changing climate can affect our health and our prosperity,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “These studies and others like it will better equip officials with the necessary information and tools they need to prepare for and prevent risks associated with changing oceans and coasts.”

In several studies funded by NOAA’s Oceans and Human Health Initiative, findings shed light on how complex interactions and climate change alterations in sea, land and sky make ocean and freshwater environments more susceptible to toxic algal blooms and proliferation of harmful microbes and bacteria. Continue reading

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